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Australia to announce new search area for missing MH370

By Pamela Boykoff and Holly Yan, CNN
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Sun June 22, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Malaysian police: A report about a pilot being the prime suspect is wrong
  • Australia Transport Safety Bureau will announce a new search area Wednesday
  • Analysts have been re-evaluating satellite data

(CNN) -- Australian authorities will announce a new search area Wednesday in the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, according to the agency overseeing the effort.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said Sunday it's been re-examining data that could shift the search area hundreds of kilometers south along an arc derived from satellite data.

More than three months after Flight 370 disappeared over Southeast Asia, searchers have found no trace of the Boeing 777 or the 239 people aboard, making it one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history.

Police: Report about pilot is wrong

Meanwhile, Malaysian police are denying a report in a London newspaper that MH370 pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah is the primary suspect in the probe into the plane's disappearance.

The investigation is "ongoing" on all angles, with nothing conclusive at this time, Malaysian police spokeswoman Asmawati Ahmad told CNN.

"We did not make any statement to say that Capt. Zaharie was the prime suspect," she said, refuting an article in London's The Sunday Times that says Zaharie is now the sole focus of the investigation.

The article cites unnamed industry and non-Malaysian government sources familiar with the state of the investigation as claiming that Zaharie is "the prime suspect if the plane's disappearance turns out to be the result of human intervention."

That conclusion is based on claims that police found Zaharie to be the only member of the flight crew who had made no personal or professional obligations for the future, the report claimed.

The story also said evidence from the flight simulator at Zaharie's home showed he had plotted -- but then deleted -- paths to the deep southern Indian Ocean and landings on short runways.

But the report notes that investigators have not ruled out the possibility of a mechanical malfunction or terrorism, and acknowledges that the case against Zaharie is based on circumstantial evidence.

An FBI review of the two pilots' hard drives, including one in the flight simulator Zaharie had built at his home, had not turned up a "smoking gun," a U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation told CNN in March.

What's next

Authorities have not been able to explain why the jet veered dramatically off course during a scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on March 8.

Hopes of closure for the families of those on board were raised in early April, when a search team in the southern Indian Ocean detected pings that were initially believed to have come from the plane's flight data recorders.

But Australian authorities said an exhaustive search of the sea floor around the pings yielded no wreckage and ruled the area out as the aircraft's final resting place.

Now, officials are preparing for the next stage of the search.

Australia, the closest country to where the plane is believed to have entered the ocean, has said it will delegate the management and operation of the new phase to a private company.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is leading the search at the request of the Malaysian government, said it is accepting proposals for the task until the end of June. The new search is expected to start in August at the earliest.

Outside group tells governments where to search for Flight 370

A hole in the clouds, an empty space on earth

CNN's David Molko contributed to this report.

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